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Waiting For Mr. Jordan

CNN Lies About Iraq

By Mike Sawin

In an op-ed piece for the New York Times, Eason Jordan wrote a column called "The News We Kept To Ourselves." CNN withheld horrific news stories from Iraq, stories that would confirm our greatest fears of what was going on over there. This appeared on Friday, April 11th.

Eason Jordan is the chief news executive and newsgathering president for CNN, the Cable News Network. He oversees CNN's worldwide news coverage and the network's editorial policy. If anyone knows what's going on at CNN, it's this guy.

Just in case you think I may be exaggerating, you can view Mr. Jordan's column for yourself by going to the New York Times' website:

CNN witnessed and received first-hand reports of torture, assassinations, and other atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein and his designates.

They've known about this and covered it up for more than ten years. Mr. Jordan claims that they didn't report this news from Iraq because he was afraid that people might get hurt or killed.

Instead, CNN stayed silent and observed as other people were hurt and killed. And they did that for ten years.

Bob Garfield, host of NPR's radio show called On The Media, interviewed Mr. Jordan on October 25th, 2002. The New Republic magazine had just run an article that was critical of news organizations, CNN in particular, for appeasing Iraqi officials so they could stay in the country. Mr. Jordan said the following:

"...CNN has demonstrated again and again that it has a spine; that it's prepared to be forthright..."

"...we work very hard to report forthrightly, to report fairly and to report accurately and if we ever determine we cannot do that, then we would not want to be there; but we do think that some light is better than no light whatsoever..."

"We've [CNN] had a bureau there [in Iraq] for 12 years with occasional interruptions when we've been thrown out, but we're not there to please the Iraqi government -- we're not there to displease the Iraqi government -- we're just there to do our job."

"We'd very much like to be there if there's a second war; but-- we are not going to make journalistic compromises in an effort to make that happen..."

"We want to be there if we can be there and operate as a responsible news organization."

If you think I've taken these quotes of context, I invite you to read the transcript of the interview, which you can find on the internet at this address:

In October 2002, Mr. Jordan says that CNN has a spine, and that they didn't appease the Iraqi government. But in April 2003, he says that he was afraid the some of their employees might have been hurt or killed if CNN ran the stories.

Mr. Jordan even talks about harassment and threats made by Iraqi officials to him and other journalists, as recorded in the Washington Times on Saturday, April 12, 2003. You can read that article here:

Perhaps they could get James Earl Jones back in the studio to record "This is CNN, please don't hurt us."

CNN displayed its impressive courage with diligent coverage of Saddam Hussein's 65th birthday party, which Mr. Jordan defends as a newsworthy event. If you want to see it for yourself, here's where you can find that story:

CNN stood by silently as hundreds, perhaps thousands of others went to their death or torment, but man, they nailed that birthday party. What intestinal fortitude!

Mr. Jordan blames the Iraqis, of course.

But somewhere along the way, the people at CNN who held back the truth have to take some responsibility. They were there. They saw it firsthand. They said nothing.

I'm optimistic enough to believe that if CNN had told the story, fewer people would have suffered, because the rest of the world might have stepped in.

I'm optimistic enough to believe that if the truth had been told, France, Syria, China and Russia may have reconsidered engaging in trade with Saddam, thus keeping him in power.

However, I'm cynical enough to believe that CNN didn't report these stories because they would lose standing in Iraq.

"The Most Trusted Name In News" had unparalleled access to Iraqi officials, and if CNN had broadcast the truth, they would have lost their place -- and keeping that place was important to them.

CNN has had some tough times the past few years. Fox News surpassed them in the ratings and frequently trounces CNN across the board. They've had to downsize, they've lost money and prestige.

Their access to Iraqi officials is one of CNN's biggest assets, and they did what they could to defend that asset.

The proof of that assertion is in their archives for anyone to see -- they told stories that Saddam's people wanted them to. Further proof is in Mr. Jordan's own words: they didn't tell the truth about the atrocities they witnessed.

So I'm waiting, Mr. Jordan. The families of the tortured and murdered are waiting too. What do you say to them? You said that you were there to do your job, which is to report the news. If murders, assassinations and torture aren't news, could you please tell me what is?